Thursday, December 18, 2008

back to the U.S. of A!

So after coming up with five posts in just a week (personal record, I'm sure), naturally, it's been a full week since I've last posted. I do have an excuse though - I've returned to the comparatively unexciting California. In fact, I've been home, not doing a whole lot more than simply relaxing, for almost a week now. The plan at the moment is to hang out in California/Seattle through about late January, at which point, Oliver and I will head down to South America to take that cruise of Antarctica, booked, what seems like, such a long time ago by now. Perhaps a stop in Costa Rica to hang out with Lott and company on the way down... After Antarctica, it'll be off to Brazil for Carnival, then spend as much time in South and Central America and the Carribean as my bank account will allow.

There was a plan a long, long time ago to drive the mini to South America... In theory, that is still possible: the mini is currently somewhere in the Northern Pacific, supposedly set to arrive in Vancouver on December 26th (happy Boxing Day, Canada...). After more time (and money) spent dealing with customs services (Canadian and American this time), I expect to deliver the car to Seattle some time in January. At that point, however, I fully intend to park the car and leave it alone for a while - it is in no shape to be driven anywhere else, and I'm in no mood to keep driving (and fixing) it!

And just because I needed a reminder of dealing with car trouble, my very own BMW here in San Diego decided to give a quick refresher course shortly after I arrived: I suspected the battery in the car would be dying after not having driven it for six months (and the battery being close to dead when I was departing in June). So, of course, it didn't start, I called AAA, they got it started, and I drove on, presuming the battery would charge itself a little. On the way I got to appreciate some little things:
- the seats are a lot more comfortable than the mini
- the steering wheel is a lot closer to the driver than it is in the mini
- the rear visibility is MUCH better in the mini!
- the clutch behaves a bit, differently

Speaking of the clutch, as I pulled up to a traffic light (in pouring rain), I let go of the clutch a little too quickly and the engine stalled... No problem - I've had the engine running for the past hour, battery must be a little charged by now, right? Well... not so much... the car's dead. Last time I ran into a car problem at a traffic light was in Chita, where I watched my rear wheel come off and slowly roll away from the car, so, all things being equal, this seemed less bad. Getting help from passerby drivers is par for the course by now, so with a bit of assistance from a guy that pulled up behind me, I got the car out of the way (the BMW is a bit harder to push than the mini!). I gave a bit of thought to whether or not it's even possible to jump start the BMW, but figuring that, hey, I'm in the US now - I speak the language here and it should be easy to get qualified help, I instead set off looking for a service station that could jump-start the car. About 30 minutes later, and a bit soaked (did I mention it was raining? In Southern California!?), I walked into a Kragen auto-parts shop in time to have the following conversation:

me: I need my car jump started...
Kragen: sure just bring it around
me: uhmm, it's dead?
Kragen: right!

We did start the conversation with an exchange of "I have a stupid question" - "I have a stupid answer," but the rest really wasn't planned. Anyway, I walked out of Kragen with a portable starter. 30 minutes later (and now sporting an umbrella) I walked back in to return the starter and let them know that it's not big enough to start a BMW with a thoroughly dead battery. Another 30 minutes passed when AAA arrived (again) to jump start the car. The next morning I bought a new battery. I even managed to install it myself - I must be a fully qualified mechanic by now as the BMW dealer charges $150 for this service. It takes approximately five minutes. The car has been running fine ever since - now I just need to sell it, so that I can spend more time in South America (and not be involved in any more car repairs). So, if you decide you've been looking for a nice BMW convertible, you should really have a look here.

I shouldn't leave you without at least a few pictures, so some shots from my last couple of days in Japan:

A really big Buddha statue (Amida Buddha) at Daibutsu in Kamakura. There used to be a building surrounding it - that got blown away by a tornado in the 17th century. The Buddha? no problem...

The Buddha and me... coming to a TV network near you? I'm already starting to find American TV a bit tiresome...

The rows of figurines at the Hase-dera temple look cute at first glance. And then you read how each one was placed there by a woman who had had a miscarriage or an abortion...

Kamakura also happens to be on the water - Yuigahama Beach was drawing lots of wind surfers on this December afternoon.

I felt I should try some Kobe beef before leaving Japan. It does not disappoint (melts in your mouth as advertised). It is, however, best to not discuss the pricetag...

I was flying out Friday afternoon, so Thursday night, I stowed my stuff away at the hostel, checked out, had the kobe beef for dinner, and went on to spend the night in Roppongi, the surreal Tokyo night-life district. In the morning (very early morning: 5:30AM!), I was off to see the morning fish auction at Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market. And then I slept quite well on the plane...

1 comment:

b mathew said...

Alex, welcome back - USA, USA, USA! I'm guessing you'll be staying with Lott? We should go out for dinner/drinks. Be glad you're not here yet, its freaky snowy still..